COVID-19 causing Manitoba businesses, employees to lose out on work

By | March 17, 2020

WINNIPEG — Social distancing and quarantines are eating away at bottom lines and available work, and though Ottawa has made it easier for people in isolation to get paid, not everyone is eligible.

As people stay home and away from each other because of COVID-19, businesses are forced to scale back and employees are seeing their hours cut.

“Restaurants, retail, hospitality, personal services, they’ve all seen dramatic hits to their revenues and their bottom line,” said Jonathan Alward from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

There are also employees missing work because of self-isolation and quarantine protocols.

The federal government has announced some measures to help ease the burden. For employment income the usual one week waiting period to get sick benefits has been waived so people in quarantine can get paid for both weeks, and a work sharing program has been increased so businesses don’t have to lay off employees when hours are reduced.

 “Thermea Spa just closed quickly overnight so we have 40 RMTs who are not employed,” said George Fraser from Remedial Massage Therapists of Manitoba.

Fraser represents 15,000 massage therapists in Manitoba.

He said cancelled appointments are financially impacting members and they don’t qualify for EI.

Fraser is hoping aid is on the way for independent contractors like those in the massage therapy industry.

“Registered massage therapists are not EI recipients or eligible to be EI recipients, so there’s a big unknown,” said Fraser.

Ottawa said it is exploring further measures.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said it’s pushing the province and Ottawa for more, including tax delays and subsidies.

“We’re calling for any measures possible at the provincial and federal level, certainly to further reduce costs for businesses,” said Alward.

Customers are being asked to help too.

Downtown businesses rely on downtown workers.

As they dwindle, The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ said there are ways to support businesses without actually walking through their doors.

“We don’t necessarily have to go out in public and support them, you can buy gift cards, you can shop online or call them if your local business doesn’t have a website,” said Kate Fenske from Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.

The federal government has also made 10 billion worth of credit available to businesses.

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